Summer often means family trips and time spent with the dog, but before you take your dog out for fun in the sun, consider these important safety tips. Here are others for what to do — and what not to do.
Take it easy
Make midday an inactive, shady time for your dog. A young teen got a sobering lesson when he took two dogs running in California, where temperatures can top 100 degrees. The heat sent both dogs to a veterinarian — and only one returned home alive. One died from complications of heat stroke, despite aggressive intervention that included, among other steps, an ice bath, fluids, and anti-inflammatory medications, says their veterinarian, Michael Andrews, DVM, president-elect of the American Animal Hospital Association.
Save walks for cooler hours
Stay out of the heat. Walk during cooler hours, know your dog’s stamina, and work well within his limits. Katherine Liscomb was surprised when heat stress struck her new dog, Greta — a Chow Chow rescued from Hurricane Katrina — during her first week in Southern California. One hour into their first long walk together, Greta’s panting grew increasingly rapid.
“She was faltering somewhat and needed to lie down a lot, cooling herself on our neighbor’s grass,” says Liscomb, a vice president for the Humane Society of the United States’ Southern California office in San Marcos.
“We found shade and let her lie down as much as she needed as we made our way back to the house. Once we got home, I gently hosed her down with cool water.” It worked. Greta began to breathe normally and, Liscomb says, “we’ve been very careful with walking her ever since.”
Stay on the grass
Walking on hot asphalt or sidewalks can cause thermal burns on your dog’s footpads. Walk on cool surfaces, such as grass, or put booties on your dog’s feet. Thermal burns can be dangerous: Eventually the burned superficial tissue can peel off and create a slow-to-heal open wound that requires nursing care for weeks, warns Andrews, who sees about one such case each year.
Not sure if it’s too hot for your dog’s paws? Try the 5-second rule>>
As Krista Hughes enjoyed a backyard barbecue with friends on a hot Southern California day, she thought nothing of it when her boyfriend’s brother started playing a game of canine soccer with her enthusiastic Australian Cattle Dog mix, Max. But as time went on, her 4-year-old dog’s breathing grew labored.
“He was panting really heavily,” Hughes recalls. “I realized he was in trouble. I immediately hosed him down with cool water and got him in the shade. We brought a fan out, too. He cooled off and was fine, but it scared me.” Since then, she says, “I just keep a closer eye on him when other people are playing with him.”
Keep him out of the car
Even on a nice day, don’t leave your dog in a parked car. On a 72-degree day, the car’s interior can reach 117 degrees within an hour. Eighty percent of that spike occurs in the first 30 minutes, according to Stanford University research published in the journal Pediatrics.
A man who stopped at a bar for a drink learned this the hard way. He left four Doberman Pinschers in metal cages in a van. All were dead by the time Curt Ransom, an animal control officer for Northern California’s Peninsula Humane Society at the time, opened the rear van doors in response to a complaint. “One of the most horrifying animal control calls I ever went on,” he says.
Even keeping the windows cracked open doesn’t help. Windows that were open 11/2 inches did not decrease the car’s interior temperature during the Stanford study.
In the end, common sense will help you keep your dog cool. If it’s too hot for you, then it’s definitely too hot for your dog.
Sally Deneen is a DOG FANCY contributing editor who lives in Seattle. She is co-author of “The Dog Lover’s Companion to Florida” (Avalon Travel Publishing, 2005, $20.95) with her husband, Robert McClure.
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